Birth of the Bacchae
by Stephanie Mirro
Birth of the Bacchae is another one of my much overdue Netgalley ARC’s. I selected this ARC because of my love, or perhaps obsession, with vampires. What started out as an infatuation with Twilight, quickly led me down the path of Bram Stoker and Anne Rice. I couldn’t wait to jump into a new vampire tale, set in a more modern world.
The premise of this story is awesome. An archaeologist, following in her mother’s footsteps, discovers an ancient amulet, and is inexplicably drawn to it. She begins having dreams about these two women from ancient roman times, and is soon thrust into a magical world.
The premise of this story really was the best part of this book, but unfortunately it was not executed very well. It was confusing while reading, because the author would do such a great job at describing the setting, and such a poor job with the dialogue. The writing continued to tell the audience what was happening, instead of showing us through plot, characters, or other devices. The dream flashbacks were, in my opinion, the strongest parts of this book.
All things considered, I think this book was trying to do too much for what it was ready for. Our main character quickly discovers that magic and witches exist, and then that vampires are hunting her because she has been chosen by a god. While all of this is unfolding we see the character trying to maintain a work-life balance, while keeping the creepy older professor and his sexual advances at bay, while maintaining her picturesque (and totally non-toxic) relationship with her boyfriend, while maintaining a relationship with her dad and best friend. It felt like this book was off balance, and could have used a little more editing before being published [[I should note that because I read an ARC of this book, it may have been edited before being published, but I have not read a finished copy and this review is based off my experience with the ARC]].
There were also parts of the book itself that seemed either problematic, or like they were overlooked. There was what seemed to be a good discussion about race and equality (specifically how far the country has come since slavery), that then got flipped on its head when the mother of the boyfriend disapproved of the main character because she’s not Asian.
The sexual encounters in this novel were all consensual and presented as fade to black, with one exception. This exception included a vampire (perhaps in his early twenties, but hundreds of years old) and a High Priestess who was described as having the voice and body of a fourteen year old girl…Are we just going to ignore the fact that while she may have lived thousands of years, this vampire is still forced to, and enjoys, the sexual exploits of a fourteen year old’s body? Yikes… This wasn’t the only dubious scenario in the book either; the main character’s body is inhabited by a god and there is questionable consent regarding how and when he uses her body.
Overall, this book just didn’t feel finished. It felt like there were too many ideas competing for your attention. Not to mention how weird the ending was for our main character. She witnessed someone important to her get murdered, and then her personality switched so vastly that I didn’t recognize this new person we were following. Now, I haven’t witnessed anyone I love be murdered by vampires, so I can’t say for sure how I’d react either, but it seemed too over the top and out of the blue.
I think the author has some good ideas in this novel: the magic system could be expanded on, and the lore of the vampires was really interesting considering the flashbacks. I just don’t think it was executed in a way that makes me want to keep reading this series.